Night Basketball

poem by Adrian Flavell , illustrated by Michel Streich

Learning Intention:

I am learning to examine how metaphors can be used to create meaning so that I can explore metaphors in my own writing.


Success Criteria:

  • I can identify metaphors in a text.
  • I can describe how metaphors create meaning.
  • I can use metaphors to create vivid and less predictable shades of meaning.


Essential knowledge:

Information about metaphors can be found in the NSW Education’s glossary.


Oral language and communication:

Ask students to define a metaphor (a comparison of two things without using “like” or “as”). Brainstorm some example metaphors as a class, such as “She has a heart of gold” and “It looks like a dog’s breakfast”. If you have a digital subscription, complete the interactive activity Metaphor Mania!


Before students view the poem, read the title “Night Basketball” aloud and ask them to predict what metaphors might be used in the poem. Students might predict that basketball will be compared to nighttime. Encourage them to stretch their thinking further, such as comparing basketball to stars, owls, silence, sleeping or a play on knight/night.


Understanding text:

Read Night Basketball as a class or listen to the audio recording. Ask students what metaphor is being used for night basketball (answer: outer space). In pairs, students note all the instances of metaphor in the written text and illustration.



- Movement on the court (under floodlights) are being compared to spinning galaxies

- Players are being compared to orbiting celestial bodies

- Players are being compared to comets and stars

- The basketball is being compared to a full moon (both in the text and illustration)


Go through answers as a class then ask students to write down eight reasons why they think the poet decided to compare night basketball with outer space. Give them time to massage out more creative explanations than the obvious ones such as the fact you can see the stars during night basketball and that a basketball is round like the full moon. Encourage them to think of the way basketball players move on the court and spin around their opponents, or that the word “star” can refer to a celestial body as well as a famous person. Ask them what the poet might be trying to say about night basketball by comparing it to outer space, such as that it’s as vibrant and delightful as shifting galaxies or it’s as complicated as rocket science. Invite willing students to share their most creative answers with the class.


Creating text:

Explain that students will be creating their own metaphors. Encourage them to think of two unlinked nouns that they could use as a metaphor, such as swimming pools and mountain climbing, or earthworms and car racing. Some students may be able to use abstract nouns with a noun, such as summer and housework. Before students begin to work on their own, use a metaphor generator to show how to connect two seemingly unconnected things. The metaphor generator comes up with answers such as:

  1. Perseverance is a garden.
  2. Anger is a spoon.
  3. Sympathy is a hammer.
  4. Honesty is a wolf.


Use one of these to model on the board. For example, modelling “Honesty is a wolf” would mean brainstorming wolf descriptions, habitats and behaviours as well as positive and negative things about honesty. Find ways to link wolves and honesty from the brainstorm. Explain to students that generating a wide range of ideas will allow them to creatively extend their metaphor and form less predictable shades of meaning. Some possible answers are:

  1. A wolf prowls/stalks its prey = sometimes it’s surprising that honesty can get you into trouble.

The metaphor: I told my mum the truth about what happened to the toaster, unaware of the danger prowling behind my words.

  1. A wolf has fangs = sometimes honesty hurts.

The metaphor: Her comment about my hairstyle sank its fangs into me.

  1. Wolves howl together = the truth can be stronger if it comes from more than one voice.

The metaphor: The four of us howled to the principal about who truly stole the winner’s medallion.

  1. Wolves are hunted in forests = sometimes you have to search for the courage to be honest.

The metaphor: I hunted for the courage to tell the truth in the dark forest of my fears.


Give students time to brainstorm their own comparisons in their workbooks – ideally, one noun on each page to encourage lots of ideas. Once they’ve linked the two nouns, students can create their metaphors. If they’re having difficulty with this task, encourage them to harvest ideas from Night Basketball. Also remind them they can create a metaphor by using relevant verbs (such as howled and prowling from the wolf example).


Assessment for/as learning:

In small groups, students read their metaphors aloud to see if their peers can identify what two things they are comparing. Peers can give feedback in the form of two stars and a wish.


Extension: Students write a poem using their metaphors.